What kind of games did Sherlock Holmes play as a child? Was he investigating “The Adventure of the Missing Peppermint Stick” or “A Case of No Cookies”? C’mon, little Sherlock Holmes was probably a lot like little everyone else – except that in the 1850s he wasn’t watching Power Rangers on television and doing karate kicks.
So what was little Sherlock doing other than racing around the dining room table at a high rate of speed? (If his adult self is any indication, that kid was a hyper little fellow!)
Well, all you have to do is look in The Sign of the Four and what he tells Watson as he investigates the Sholto murder: “Now run downstairs, loose the dog, and look out for Blondin.”
Sherlock Holmes may not be very good at replicating the tightrope walking skills of the Great Blondin when he finally got up to the roof (he crawls along the roof line like a worm), but he’s not above telling Watson that he thinks about playing Blondin on the roof, before he heads upstairs. And why would he do that?
Well, probably because he fancied himself the Great Blondin in much earlier days. Because in the 1850s, kids didn’t have Power Rangers . . . they had circus performers like tightrope walkers. And of all the tightrope walkers, the greatest of Holmes’s childhood had to be Blondin, who walked the high wire across Niagara Falls in June of 1859.
Holmes was, of course, also a fan of Niagara Falls, using it’s ultimate wateriness in an early explanation of the power of deduction in A Study in Scarlet. Put that mention together with his Blondin line and it doesn’t seem at all unlikely that the Great Blondin’s feat of 1859 made quite an impression on the boy Sherlock.
As childhood heroes go, Sherlock Holmes could have done a lot worse. The Great Blondin, also known as Jean Francois Gravelet, shared the same French ancestry as Holmes.
Other Sherlock Holmes Historical Bits